If you’ve been keeping up with the design world, you may have come across the term future-proofing. It sounds like something that requires a crystal ball and a degree in actuarial science, but it’s not as complicated as it seems. In general terms, future-proofing in the architectural, engineering and construction industries revolves around eight basic principles that are considered from the planning period: smart energy use, health and safety, lifecycle duration, quality of materials and installation, security, sound control, adaptable spatial design and reduced carbon footprint. Taking each of these elements into account from the very first concept will lead to construction longevity and a better resale value.
It’s likely the first thing most people will think about when it comes to future-proofing is technology. You can find out more about domotics in this blog post. Everything from heating and cooling to home surveillance systems, music and appliances can be operated from your phone, no matter where you are in the world. Home appliances are becoming smarter, with air conditioning systems now able to recognise that a window has been left open and adjust output accordingly. Almost everything can be automated, from fridges ordering milk when you run out to air purifiers you can turn on remotely. While not all of these devices have been designed with future-proofing in mind, many of them do help reduce a home’s carbon footprint.
Technology changes rapidly as do the components that make these devices work. Wiring for the future is a prudent addition to any new build or renovation, creating an adaptable platform for future technologies. While we can’t read the minds of industrial designers, we can run an extra conduit alongside existing wiring plans to accommodate future cables as the tech evolves – a much easier solution for when the next generation of internet access comes along or for when you replace a home entertainment system. Instead of having to rip up paving and knock down walls any new wiring can be effortlessly fed through the pre-installed conduit tube.
Future-proofing naturally involves reducing energy consumption but it can and should also include creating energy. Solar panels have been around for decades and advances in battery design has seen solar energy systems not only decrease in price but also become more efficient and able to store energy for longer periods. Other materials such as window glass and roof tiles that funnel the sun’s energy into the home’s solar system are already on the market. While the initial outlay might add a few pennies to your budget, the overall savings and benefit to the environment outweighs any extra costs.
It won’t be long before solar energy systems are mandated by local bylaws in some locations so why not get ahead of the game? While you’re at it, you may as well install an electric car charging station. The Balearics have committed to having 100 percent electric vehicles by 2035 and the consensus is that for most people, their next car will be electric so it makes sense to get chargers installed during the building process.
A key component to future-proofing is more personal than global. Right now you may be young(ish) and fit as a fiddle but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for a time when mobility becomes an issue, even if it might be decades away. The most important thing to think about is access. Is what you are planning now easily adaptable to allow for walkers or wheelchairs? Will your staircases accommodate a chair lift? Will your bathroom design create future hazards? Could you consider installing motion sensor lighting? These are hard questions to ask but if you plan to age in the home you’re currently building, thinking about it now will save a lot of time and money later.
At Blakstad Design Consultants, future-proofing is something we take into account from the very first client meeting. While the technical aspects of future-proofing have become a natural part of our process there’s an emotional side to it too. We ask our clients how they see themselves using their home now, in five years, ten years and so on. Of course, plans change as do tastes but our goal is to make our designs as adaptable to the client’s life as possible. Now and in the future.